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Dominic Burford - Professional Profile



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I am a professional software engineer and architect with over eighteen years commercial development experience with a strong focus on the design and development of web and mobile applications.

I have experience of architecting scalable, distributed, high volume web applications that are accessible from multiple devices due to their responsive web design, including architecting enterprise service-oriented solutions. I have also developed enterprise mobile applications using Xamarin and Telerik Platform.

I have extensive experience using .NET, ASP.NET, Windows and Web Services, WCF, SQL Server, LINQ and other Microsoft technologies. I am also familiar with HTML, Bootstrap, Javascript (inc. JQuery and Node.js), CSS, XML, JSON, Apache Cordova, KendoUI and many other web and mobile related technologies.

I am enthusiastic about Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery and Application Life-cycle Management having configured such environments using CruiseControl.NET, TeamCity and Team Foundation Services. I enjoy working in Agile and Test Driven Development (TDD) environments.

Outside of work I have two beautiful daughters. I am also an avid cyclist who enjoys reading, listening to music and travelling.

 

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GeneralFinding a solution to an Azure web app deployment problem Pin
Dominic Burford19hrs 39mins ago
professionalDominic Burford19hrs 39mins ago 
GeneralStructured Logging Pin
Dominic Burford24-Dec-19 2:28
professionalDominic Burford24-Dec-19 2:28 
When I first began writing the ASP.NET WebAPI services for our vehicle telemetry tracking, it was a small project with only a few controllers. The log data that was generated was small in volume and I would query the logs with relative ease. Fast forward to today (over 3 years later), and the ASP.NET WebAPI project now contains services that are consumed by our mobile app, web apps, licence and MOT checking apps etc. Basically, the project has grown substantially since I first created it.

At the time that I first wrote the ASP.NET WebAPI services, I investigated many of the logging frameworks that were targeted for the the .NET Framework at the time. I looked at Log4Net, NLog and Elmah. They all looked feature rich and customisable, but in the end I rolled my own logging framework. My requirements at the time were quite simple as were the sizes of the log data that would be generated. So I rolled a simple logging framework that would meet my requirements.

The log data that is generated today can get very large, and querying it can be time consuming. A single build can load 10k rows of log data. We have console apps, mobile apps and web apps all running on a daily basis that also contribute to the volume of log data that is generated. It is not uncommon to have 100s of thousands of log entries created each day. Trying to diagnose a problem with so much data to query is not always a simple task. This is where structured logging comes into play.

What is structured logging?

Log data is often comprised of log messages. These log messages are unstructured strings of text. Diagnosing an error entails searching through these text strings looking for the information that we need.

Typical log messages might look something like this.
INFORMATION - 2019-12-24 - This is a log message
ERROR - 2019-12-24 - Something went wrong
INFORMATION - 2019-12-24 - This is another log message
Such unstructured data makes it difficult to query for useful information. As a developer it would be really helpful to be able to query and filter your log data. For example to query log data by a specific date, customer, log entry type etc. The goal behind structured logging is to solve this problem. The aim of structured logging is to bring structure to unstructured data to allow it be usefully queried and filtered to find the information you need in a timely manner. For log data to be queried and filtered requires the data to be mapped into a format that allows this e.g. XML and JSON would be ideal candidates.

What was clear was that my initial logging framework was no longer fit for purpose. The volumes of log data being created each day were getting increasingly larger, and I was no longer able to query the data in a sensible and timely manner. That's when I came across the notion of structured logging. After much reading around and looking at other frameworks that supported this, I decided that I would update my own logging framework rather than employ one of the .NET logging frameworks (again). Although the frameworks mentioned earlier all now provide support for structured logging, SeriLog seems to be the preferred choice due it having provided support from the very beginning (whereas the others have provided support after the fact). The reason for updating my own logging framework rather than using one of the 3rd party ones was that I had already invested a lot of time and effort into my own framework, and it would probably be more straight forward to update what was already there than to start again with a new logging framework.

How have I implemented structured logging?

I have added a new column to my log table. Previously my log table consisted of a log message column that would contain text strings (as in the examples given previously). All the key information would be contained within the log message as in the following example.
INFORMATION - 2019-12-24 - User Joe has logged onto the system
The user name 'Joe' is what I would be looking for in the log message. As can be seen it is part of the log message itself. With structured logging all such information is now stored in JSON (other formats are available). My log table is composed of the following columns - with the Properties column storing the structured logging data in JSON format.
LogType
INFORMATION

Created
2019-12-24 10:45

Message
User has logged onto the system

Properties
{ "username": "Joe" }
N.B. one added benefit of rolling my own logging framework is that I can implement as many log types (the column LogTypes in the above example) as I need (I currently have ERROR, INFORMATION, EXCEPTION, DEBUG). I have a .config setting that allows me to switch the DEBUG log data on or off. Currently I have this set to ON for my unit test projects and OFF for production.

The biggest challenge was not so much updating my logging framework to implement structured logging, but to update all the areas of the code where I am sending output to the log (which is everywhere). I am still currently in the process of doing this.

The signature for my log message method looks like this.
protected void LogMessage(string message, LogLevelTypes loglevel, Dictionary<string, string> properties = null)
{
  //write the log entry to the log table
}
The LogLevelTypes is an enum containing the values ERROR, EXCEPTION, INFORMATION and DEBUG. The structured log data is passed to my method as a Dictionary of key-value pairs. The Dictionary is then serialised before being sent to the log table.

With your log data now stored in a structured format, you are able to utilise one of the many different tools that are available for viewing structured logging data e.g. Prefix from Stackify[^]

I haven't yet got round to investigating any of the tools available for viewing structured data, but when I do I will be sure to write an article about it on here. Until then, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
"There are two ways of constructing a software design: One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies, and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies. The first method is far more difficult." - C.A.R. Hoare

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GeneralEnabling TLS 1.2 on your .NET application Pin
Dominic Burford12-Dec-19 0:11
professionalDominic Burford12-Dec-19 0:11 
GeneralThe new version of the app is (almost) ready for release Pin
Dominic Burford8-Nov-19 0:28
professionalDominic Burford8-Nov-19 0:28 
GeneralChunking your lists into multiple smaller lists Pin
Dominic Burford11-Sep-19 4:40
professionalDominic Burford11-Sep-19 4:40 
GeneralWriting flexible filters for your data using Predicates Pin
Dominic Burford16-Jul-19 7:11
professionalDominic Burford16-Jul-19 7:11 
GeneralRe: Writing flexible filters for your data using Predicates Pin
Slacker00716-Jul-19 23:09
professionalSlacker00716-Jul-19 23:09 
GeneralRe: Writing flexible filters for your data using Predicates Pin
Dominic Burford17-Jul-19 2:17
professionalDominic Burford17-Jul-19 2:17 
GeneralBlocking Asynchronous Code Pin
Dominic Burford4-Jul-19 23:11
professionalDominic Burford4-Jul-19 23:11 
GeneralDesigning and implementing flexible RESTful services Pin
Dominic Burford14-Jun-19 1:50
professionalDominic Burford14-Jun-19 1:50 
GeneralWriting asynchronous code with .NET Pin
Dominic Burford10-Jun-19 4:34
professionalDominic Burford10-Jun-19 4:34 
GeneralWeird Minification Behaviour in ASP.NET Core Pin
Dominic Burford28-May-19 4:54
professionalDominic Burford28-May-19 4:54 
GeneralThe Importance of Structure and Dilligence Pin
Dominic Burford24-May-19 7:14
professionalDominic Burford24-May-19 7:14 
GeneralWhen should you rewrite that legacy application? Pin
Dominic Burford22-May-19 1:03
professionalDominic Burford22-May-19 1:03 
GeneralImproving Your SQL Stored Procedures Pin
Dominic Burford2-May-19 6:47
professionalDominic Burford2-May-19 6:47 
GeneralPassing a list of items to a SQL stored procedure Pin
Dominic Burford27-Mar-19 1:55
professionalDominic Burford27-Mar-19 1:55 
GeneralSoftware development is like plumbing Pin
Dominic Burford8-Mar-19 6:12
professionalDominic Burford8-Mar-19 6:12 
GeneralVersioning a .NET Core 2.2 application Pin
Dominic Burford7-Mar-19 6:04
professionalDominic Burford7-Mar-19 6:04 
GeneralUsing tags with push notifications from Azure Notification Hub Pin
Dominic Burford18-Feb-19 0:21
professionalDominic Burford18-Feb-19 0:21 
GeneralSending Push Notifications with Azure Notification Hub Pin
Dominic Burford25-Jan-19 5:34
professionalDominic Burford25-Jan-19 5:34 
GeneralUnit testing a Xamarin Forms mobile app Pin
Dominic Burford13-Jan-19 22:59
professionalDominic Burford13-Jan-19 22:59 
GeneralApple development sucks Pin
Dominic Burford8-Jan-19 2:09
professionalDominic Burford8-Jan-19 2:09 
GeneralBut the tech giants are private companies Pin
Dominic Burford19-Dec-18 6:31
professionalDominic Burford19-Dec-18 6:31 
GeneralThe latest version of our app nears completion Pin
Dominic Burford7-Dec-18 3:21
professionalDominic Burford7-Dec-18 3:21 
GeneralIs Silicon Valley a force for good? Pin
Dominic Burford27-Nov-18 22:57
professionalDominic Burford27-Nov-18 22:57 

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